Later life decision-making: Experiential adult learning and successful aging

Shauna Breland


The focus of this study was on how aging adults make critical life decisions such as those involving health care and health care benefits, living arrangements for later life, and organizing personal affairs. The participant group consisted of 8 sexagenarians and 4 septuagenarians who had recently made or were currently making these critical life decisions. The study employed both qualitative and quantitative methods. A qualitative phenomenological approach was used to allow the researcher to examine the phenomena of decision-making and aging within the context of the life experiences of the individuals being studied. Each subject participated in a single in-depth interview, and as the quantitative portion, completed the Life Satisfaction Index A. Purposeful sampling enabled the researcher to make sure that the individuals met the age, mental health, and decision-making criteria. The information that was gathered was coded into themes and subthemes. The researcher concluded the following: (1) Older adults use experiential learning to make decisions. (2) Older adults draw on the experiences of others when making decisions. (3) The financial situations of older adults significantly affect the decisions that they make, and (4) the nature of the decision-making changes as individuals age. Scoring of the LSIA indicated that 92% of the subjects reported high to very high life satisfaction, scoring in the top quartiles. Because the sample size was small, no other significant findings were discovered through this instrument. It did provide simple descriptive data. Recommendations for future research include comparison of decision-making in elderly persons with that of younger populations, and further study that looks strictly at the Baby Boomer population more closely.